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Stony Brook takes two on the road to stay on top

February 7, 2012 Columns No Comments

DURHAM, N.H. – Mission accomplished. That was the basic idea Steve Pikiell had after his veteran Stony Brook team took both ends of a road trip, the second one coming as they managed to grind out a 57-48 win at New Hampshire on Monday night. It was the latest evidence that his team is playing like a veteran group, and one that might be able to deliver a conference title two years after a regular season title didn’t lead to the NCAA Tournament.

“We needed both games on this trip, so the objective was done,” said the Stony Brook head coach.

This was not a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination. Neither team played well offensively out of the gates, and it continued later, which wasn’t surprising since it was a matchup of two defensive teams. New Hampshire shot below 37 percent on the night, while Stony Brook won despite shooting just over 31 percent. They won the way they know how to, which is by defending and playing at least well enough offensively, although this season’s team has been better than some of their recent teams at that end of the floor.

“Our defense again holds a team under 50 points, that’s a good outing for us,” said Pikiell.

The Seawolves have held six opponents below 50 points on the season. In the eight games they have held an opponent below 60 points, they are 8-0. In the past, their defense wasn’t quite enough at times, but the offense has developed with good talent and a veteran cast that plays well together.

Stony Brook has a veteran team with a lot of players who were keys to the team that won the regular season title two seasons ago. Last year was a tough year thanks largely to injuries, but with the team back and a better run of health, as well as some improvements in the personnel, this team looks like the team to beat. They have overcome a difficult start from a tough non-conference schedule, one that appears to have toughened them.

“Watching them the last 3-4 games, what I see is a veteran, older, experienced team that’s been there and knocking on the door,” said UNH head coach Bill Herrion.

Added Pikiell: “They’re a veteran team, and they kind of approached the trip the right way, I thought. I like this team. They’re good guys, they’re as unselfish as can be, and we’ve had nine leading scorers. I’m excited about them and their approach.”

A big part of the team’s success two seasons ago was Tommy Brenton, who was not part of last season after a knee injury he suffered in the off-season. Now, he’s playing more on the wing, and he’s adapted well as he’s been the Seawolves’ best player. Known primarily for his rebounding and competitiveness, he’s showing a lot of versatility while still rebounding at a high level. In fact, he leads the team in assists as well.

The Seawolves now have plenty of scorers for Brenton to facilitate with. Bryan Dougher remains dangerous from behind the arc, while sophomore Dave Coley has emerged after proving his worth at the defensive end last season and showing some offensive potential. Coley spent a lot of time in the off-season looking back at last year, and has made solid adjustments. Al Rapier is another steady player, while Dallis Joyner is second on the team in rebounding, grabbing 11 on Monday night. The offense is now so good, they haven’t missed a beat despite Lenny Hayes struggling to find his shot after shooting over 45 percent from long range last season.

On Monday night, the offense wasn’t great. But the Seawolves defended well enough and got to the foul line enough to pull out another one. In so doing, they accomplished the mission of getting two road wins with a quick turnaround, and moved closer to accomplishing the mission of a conference title.

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